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Voice-box research

Press release issued: 1 March 2001

Academic awarded £1.2 million for research into voice-box transplantation

Mr Martin Birchall, Reader in Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Bristol, and Honorary Consultant at North Bristol NHS Trust, has been awarded a £1.2 million Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust to bring laryngeal transplantation into the clinical arena.

The money will be used to fund replacement staff to take over Mr Birchall's clinical, teaching and training responsibilities for five years, as well as a research nurse, two postdoctoral scientists and a technician to help him with his dedicated research programme.

The aim of the programme is to provide the necessary scientific and technological information to make laryngeal transplantation a recognised treatment option for people who would routinely have their voice boxes removed.

The research group will be working using a pre-clinical model developed together with Dr Mick Bailey, Lecturer in the School of Clinical Veterinary Science, and Professor Chris Stokes, Professor of Mucosal Immunology, at Bristol University's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, Langford.

Loss of a functioning larynx causes an enormous reduction in quality of life, with communication, swallowing and appearance all suffering. The provision of a completely functioning replacement would bring new hope to many thousands of patients worldwide.

As well as exploring how rejection of transplanted larynx can be reduced, Mr Birchall's group will collaborate with Dr Giorgio Terenghi, at the Blond McIndoe Laboratories, Royal Free Hospital, London, on ways of stimulating repair of the laryngeal nerves to work normally.

Mr Birchall, commenting on the award, said: 'I am delighted to be awarded the Fellowship by the Wellcome Trust. This answers the biggest problem facing head and neck surgeons in the world. It will have enormous spin-offs in our understanding of how the voice box works and will introduce new ways of making a paralysed larynx talk again.'

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Thursday, 01-Mar-2001 17:38:55 GMT

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